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Memphis on Race, Schools, Politics, Poverty & Taxes

  • Broadcast in Education
The Perkins Platform

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The November Special Edition (1 hour) will feature two special guests who are the chief architects for the ongoing merger of Shelby County and Memphis City Public Schools - David Pickler and Martavius Jones.  The unification is considered to be the largest school district consolidation in American history. Fraught with historical tensions, issues of race and equity, this is a consolidation ambitious both in scale and momentum. Actions by members of the Memphis and Shelby school boards, local city councils, a 2011 referendum, and ongoing lawsuits have divided the local landscapes along political lines.  

Discussions about a possible consolidation occurred as far back as October / November 2010, spurred by a proposal by  David Pickler (SCPS) to authorize special district status to Shelby School District. In response, Martavius Jones (MCPS) proposed the city of Memphis relinquish its charter. What followed has proven to be a hugely influential series of efforts to reform two very different school districts, the implications of which may reverberate in school districts across the USA.


However, the move has divided community members, parents, and local residents due to the significance of the logistical, legal, and community challenges such a substantial consolidation process poses. Some of the issues it raises for those directly affected include, but are not limited to:

Memphis teachers are unionized, Shelby County’s are not.

The county owns its buses, the city has historically relied on a contractor.

Both use different textbooks and different curriculums

Each district implements different teacher evaluation systems.

Median family income in Memphis is $32,000 a year vs. suburban average of $92,000.

85 percent of students in Memphis are black vs. 38 percent in Shelby County are black.

Join us for what will certainly be an amazing discussion.